There are a lot of rules written by well-meaning people that don’t necessarily make any sense now or perhaps for a given circumstance. This week has reinforced my view that I should follow my gut instinct regardless of the rules when it comes to making decisions for my business. I suppose it’s a privilege of being an entrepreneur, as well as a risk in supporting one too.
As an example, this week I was willing to give up financial support from a sponsor by breaking the original rules that were set for a program. I questioned the rules and decided to go in a direction that I thought was better for my company. Later, I also did a proper analysis to confirm.
The reality was that my gut instincts pointed me in the right direction from the beginning. The analysis only made it easier to explain to others, and fortunately that sponsor decided to stick with me afterwards.
One of the best and yet most challenging things about starting a business is the freedom to create your own world from scratch. There are simply too many choices:
What kind of business? What should I name it? What kinds of products or services? Should I have employees? How will I fund it? Online or retail?
You can waste a lot of time trying to prioritise and make decisions even on the simplest things. So, how do you make decisions as an entrepreneur?
For example, for this company I had 260 logo designs to choose from. How would I decide which one?
Personally, the hardest decision for me so far was choosing which business to start in the first place. I’ve been writing down business ideas in my journals since 1998, and I’d already had three businesses earlier in my career.
When I decided to start The Refoundry, I had considered the circular economy industry for a while. However, it took months of intense, solid research to decide on the company and narrow it down to the products we currently have in the design for manufacturing (DFM) phase.
Now, even though I’ve already made that decision, I’m still tempted by other opportunities that come to me. The only thing that keeps me on track is the company’s mission – to help Mother Nature by making great products out of recycled product.
What about this other great idea to be made of recycled timber? NO! How about this app that will go well with your first product line? NO! We can make it cheaper if we use virgin plastic instead? NO!
While it might not help my decision about a logo, notice how much easier it was to make strategic decisions once I settled on the mission for the company?
So, if you ever have so much entrepreneurial freedom that you’re struggling to make big decisions, try establishing one important rule like a mission statement. You’ll see how restricting your freedom of decision will suddenly make it much easier.
This week is the second of my Go/No Go decision milestones. I’m expecting the manufacturer quotes back this week. While they’re still estimates, the most important numbers are the unit prices. Can I make the products for a reasonable price here in Australia and out of recycled plastic?
If the answer is no, I have to pivot – either by 1) changing the business model or 2) the products. I’m set on making products out of Australian recycled plastic. So, really #2 is the only option. However, if that occurs, it could take me months of market research again to decided what that product should be and then to design it.
That delay would also force me back into the job market – trying to do this business as a side hustle while working full-time in my usual 50-60 hour a week type jobs. I don’t want to do that because I know the business momentum will suffer from my lack of energy and attention.
Right now, I’m trying not to think about this too much. It could still work out after all.
As I start my new business, some people may think it’s odd that I’m planning on wearing an uniform. Yet to me, it’s a no brainer.
In my last job, I was the only employee in the organisation that did not have an uniform requirement in my employment contract. However, I chose to wear one to help some of the team dynamic issues that existed when I started. This one decision alone seemed to fix the main problem almost immediately. And yet, I continued to wear an uniform everyday for the next few years until I left the organisation.
Practically, it made sense while working in an environment with animals. I preferred to save my suits from puppy pee and cat fur which seemed to cover my clothes most the time. However, I soon realised the value in the brand recognition from wearing an uniform too as I never had to tell people where I worked.
Furthermore, by wearing an uniform, I basically mimicked the successful behaviour of many well-known people by eliminating one decision that I needed to make every day – what to wear. I had forgotten how liberating that was since my old military days nearly twenty years before this one.
So now as I start my next business, I purposely plan to wear an uniform every day because:
It’s cheap advertising;
It eliminates one major decision I need to make every day – what to wear;
It allows me to deduct the cost of my clothes and laundering;
It reduces my personal costs to keep a more diverse wardrobe;
I don’t have to worry about ruining my good clothes while working or installing my products (or if I want to pat a dog!); and
Just importantly, I reduce that amount of clothing I need to buy and that will eventually go to landfill. This is something that is very important to my sustainable-focussed social enterprise.
So, next time you see me in my new business uniform, you now know why!